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Review: 10 JavaScript editors and IDEs put to the test

Martin Heller | Feb. 7, 2014
WebStorm and Sublime Text lead a field of diverse and capable tools for JavaScript programming

You can customize everything about Sublime Text: the color scheme, text font, the global key bindings, the tab stops, the file-specific key bindings and snippets, and even the syntax highlighting rules. Preferences are encoded as JSON files. Language-specific definitions are XML preferences files. There is an active community around Sublime Text that creates and maintains Sublime Text packages and plug-ins. Many features that I initially thought Sublime Text lacked — including JSLint and JSHint interfaces, JsFormat, JsMinify, PrettyJSON, and Git support — turn out to be available through the community, using the Package Installer.

One of the reasons for Sublime Text's great performance is that it is tightly coded. Another reason is that Sublime Text is not an IDE, and it doesn't need the bookkeeping overhead of an IDE.

From a developer's viewpoint, this is a tricky trade-off. If you're in a tight, test-driven, "red, green, refactor" development loop, then an IDE that is set up to edit, test, refactor, and track code coverage will help you the most. If you're doing code reviews or major edits, on the other hand, you'll want the fastest, most efficient editor you can find, and that editor might well be Sublime Text.

Sublime Text is a highly configurable and extensible text editor for code, markup, and prose. It knows more than 50 syntaxes out of the box, including JavaScript (shown), and it can be extended with TextMate syntax definitions. (Click the image for the complete view.)

JavaScript editors and IDEs: WebStorm
JetBrains' WebStorm, despite its modest price, is a high-end IDE for Web developers, concentrating on the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript front end. JetBrains also sells IDEs for Java, PHP, Ruby, and Python, all of which share a core engine.

As an editor for Web development projects, WebStorm is as good as anything else out there. It has all the features you'd expect, plus many pleasant surprises. You'd expect syntax-coloring and limited code completion. You might not expect accurate code completion for difficult mixed-language cases, such as JavaScript that generates HTML. Whereas some code editors punt and treat the HTML as a plain string, WebStorm recognizes the embedded HTML and parses the next layer. WebStorm's JavaScript code completion for keywords, labels, variables, parameters, and functions is DOM-based, and it supports popular browser-specific methods.

You'd expect code formatting for JavaScript and HTML, but you might not expect much in the way of Markdown support. (Markdown is commonly used for formatting the documentation files in Git repositories.) And yet, after I installed a free plug-in that was offered as soon as I opened my first Markdown file, WebStorm provided both syntax highlighting and output preview for Markdown files.


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